A Short Note on Tolerance and Sanction

March 27, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

An acquaintance and fellow student of Objectivism read Leonard Peikoff’s “Fact and Value” this week. I asked him for his thoughts on it, and he wrote: Read more

Why Theft is Neither Ethical Nor Practical

January 13, 2009 by · 9 Comments 

Tom, an acquaintance of mine, is about to commence an ethics course. The outline for the course states:

The first part of the course addresses the challenge that the egoist (sometimes called the amoralist) poses for moral philosophy…The egoist is a person who doesn’t care about morality – all the egoist cares about is his or her own advantage and happiness, and he or she will be prepared to break any of our standard moral rules in order to secure it- just as long, that is, as he or she can get away with it.

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NEW VIDEO: Fractional Reserve Banking versus Ayn Rand's Ethics

November 5, 2008 by · 6 Comments 

Since former Federal Reserve head Alan Greenspan’s testimony on October 23, 2008, anti-capitalists of every stripe have seized the opportunity falsely to blame the money and banking crisis upon Ayn Rand’s philosophy and upon capitalism. At the same time, some have argued that Objectivism is compatible with fractional reserves in banking. For both reasons, I yesterday turned on the video camera and explained, extemporaneously, the nature of Ayn Rand’s objection to inflation, and why it implies an objection to fractional reserves. Read more

Banking and Morality: 100% Reserve versus "Fractional" Reserves

October 20, 2008 by · 42 Comments 

In written pieces (see here, here, and here, for examples) and in videos, I have advocated a 100% reserve requirement for banks. I am hardly original in doing so. A 100% reserve was advocated by the Chicago professors who advised Roosevelt during the banking crisis of the 1930s (see Ronnie Phillip’s excellent article on the topic); it is and was advocated by several economists of the Austrian school, including, according to Gary North, Ludwig von Mises; it was most famously advocated by famous American economist Irving Fisher; it was even advocated by Milton Friedman before he concluded that it was politically difficult to achieve, and settled, instead, for monetarism (see his “A Program for Monetary Stability). However, unlike some of those economists, my reasons are founded on ethics, not on economics: a 100% reserve prevents inflation of the money supply and, thereby, prevents non-consensual wealth redistribution. Read more

An Objectivist on a Life Boat

August 27, 2008 by · 9 Comments 

On August 26, 2008, I released a video that addressed the assertion – sometimes heard even amongst students of Objectivist philosophy – that “ethics don’t apply in life boat scenarios” or other emergencies. In the video, I spoke extemporaneously, but I thought my argument should nonetheless be made available in written format, for googlers and others who may prefer to read philosophical arguments, rather than to listen to them or to watch them. What follows is, for the most part (about 99% of it), a transcription of what I said in the video. However, I have removed contractions in most places and, in a small number of places where the spoken word left some ambiguity as to my meaning, I have made my meaning more clear. Read more

I've Chosen

August 20, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

A cheeky declaration.
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Three Ideas Implicit in the American Revolution

July 6, 2008 by · 2 Comments 

The Western Standard ( asked me to write “a short, 250-word comment on the ideas motivating the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence. My submission is still online, together with a number of other distinguished individuals’ submissions on the same topic. It all makes for some great food for thought.

What follows is my submission, as headlined and bylined by the fine editors of the Western Standard. Read more

Defending Multiculturalism for Dummies

June 1, 2008 by · 6 Comments 

YouTube's qtronmanOn the popular video sharing site YouTube, a philosophical vlogger who goes by the handle qtronman (and who is a member of the YouTube Objectivists Group) has started a video debate by condemning Multiculturalism as unjust. In his video, he makes it clear that, by “Multiculturalism”, he is not referring to experiencing cultural customs, foods etc, and that he embraces the idea of learning things of value that people have contributed to human knowledge, wherever they might live etc. He says that, instead, “Multiculturalism, again, says that you cannot judge other cultures”, and he argues that Multiculturalism leads to injustice because it is an assault on values and valuation. Read more

The Psychology and Morality of Buying Flowers for Your Lover

April 21, 2008 by · 4 Comments 

One of the legal assistants at my office complex (not an employee of mine, but one of another lawyer), Read more

Government Employment and Hand-outs

April 2, 2008 by · 5 Comments 

A facebook friend asked me:

What is your view on accepting governmental jobs outside the sphere of what a small state would comprise of, for example worikng as a teacher in highschool or as a nurse or doctor?

On a realted issue: what is your view on using government funded services or accepting subsidies one’s “entitled” to?

I responded as follows:

With respect to your first question:

If not considered carefully, your question might be considered as one that assumes a host of unstated facts. And, if one is not careful, ones answer to your question might wrongly be determined by the unstated assumptions, rather than by the stated facts.

Two unstated assumptions seem likely to be made by a person considering your question:

  1. that the government is funded in an immoral way (e.g., with income taxes); and/or
  2. that the government has a monopoly on the services in question (or has set itself up with laws that give it an advantage via coercion).

If you assume either of those while considering your question, you will be more likely to conclude that working for a government as a teacher, nurse, or doctor would be wrong. Note, however, that the real issue there is not “jobs outside the sphere of what a small state would comprise” but: evil government funding, or evil protectionism/monopoly.

To properly answer the question you do ask, therefore, be careful not to make assumptions such as 1 and 2. Instead, assume:

  1. that the government is not funded immorally (e.g., it is funded voluntarily); and
  2. that the government has no legislated monopoly or protection with respect to its educational and medical services.

The issue then becomes clear: is it wrong to work for such a government as a teacher, nurse, or doctor? Clearly, the answer is: “no”. If nobody is forced to pay for the government’s educational or medical services, and if everyone is free to compete with the government’s educational and medical services, then there is nothing morally wrong in the government offering such services, and there is nothing morally wrong in accepting employment from the government in respect of those services.

If, instead of just answering the question you actually asked, we assume that the government is funded immorally (e.g., with income taxes), then the issue is not really “jobs outside the sphere of what a small state would comprise”. Rather, if one assumes immoral funding, the issue is: should one accept any form of employment from a government that is funded immorally (e.g., should one accept employment from such a government even in the role of police officer or warden?).

Similarly, if instead of just answering the question you actually asked, we assume that the government has passed laws that give it a monopoly on health care (as is the case in Ontario), then the issue is not “jobs outside the sphere of what a small state would comprise”, per se. Rather, the issue is: should a person accept employment with an employer that holds an immoral monopoly? Consider as an example whether, in that situation, it is moral to accept a government job as a police officer when your job might require you to arrest the owners of private (i.e., illegal) health clinics. Does the fact that policing is inside “the sphere of what a small state would comprise” make it morally right to accept the policing job, but morally wrong to accept a job as a doctor in the government’s health care monopoly?

Finally, consider that not all legislated monopolies are government-owned. That includes doctors, lawyers, trades, etc., each of which has a guild and a monopoly: a non-lawyer cannot do most legal work; a non-member of a college of physicians cannot do most medical work; et cetera. Thus, the issue of whether the employer is a government is a red herring if what you really want to know is the morality of working for an employer that has an immoral and state-imposed monopoly.

In short, it is very important not to confuse the issue raised in your question by making such unstated assumptions. If, on the other hand, your question was mis-stated; if what you really intended to ask was a question not about “jobs outside the sphere of what a small state would comprise”, but about working for an immorally-funded government, or for an immoral monopoly, then you should re-formulate your question.

With respect to your second question:

If you pay taxes, use those tax-funded government services and take every penny the government will give you. Imagine that it is your birthday, and you are visited by the neighbourhood crook, who we’ll call Tony Soprano. Soprano obtained all of his money by stealing it from others, including yourself. Tony hands you a $100 bill and says “happy birthday”. Assuming that he has stolen at least $100.00 from you in the past, is it immoral for you to accept the money? Answer: no. If, on the other hand, Tony has never stolen from you, it would be immoral to accept the money (unless your intention is to return it to the people/person from whom the money was stolen). Unfortunately, it is unlikely in the extreme that you are not a Tony Soprano victim (i.e., a taxpayer) and, accordingly, it is very unlikely that it would be immoral for you to use government services or take government hand-outs.


Paul McKeever

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